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The House of the Lord Church where Black Political Power and Culture was Born and Nurture Part 17

Remembering the Life and Times of Basil Paterson

Well, we have written about Percy Sutton and David Dinkins, in this, I Remember series, coming from another soon-to-be-published book titled Passing of the Human Giant Spirit.

So far, I have written about elected officials whose base was Harlem. But their names and influence were known and felt worldwide. They are written about here because they were deeply involved with our church, the House of the Lord Church. And as my wife, Rev. Dr. Karen Daughtry used to say in introducing me, when we did our weekly radio program: “The church with a ministry to meet every need. Where the Rev. Dr. Herbert Daughtry is the pastor, a young man with a vision of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Designed not only to get us to heaven but how to have an abundant life here on earth.

The article that I am inserting this time shows:

  • Close affection and admiration for each other.

  • Tells how we organized together and shows the prestige and influence the paper gave to us.

Black chiefs meet to create a political strategy thru 1981

By David Medina

A wide spectrum of the city’s black political leadership, from the Rev. Herbert Daughtry of the Black United Front to State Secretary of the State Basil Paterson, gathered for breakfast at the Harlem State Office Building yesterday to map a black political strategy through 1981. Speakers at the gathering of about 500 included a number of radio and television personalities. Among the topics brought up for discussion were Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Bruce Wright’s Impending race for Civil Court judgeship, the possibility of running Paterson for the United States Senate in 1980, the recall of Mayor Koch, and the 1980 presidential race. But the overriding theme of the meeting was that blacks once again are under serious attack in the U.S. and had better regroup and mount a counter-offensive. “Better start packing” “Bruce Wright stands for something and if he loses we better start packing,” said Paterson in a brief but emotional speech. “We’ve got to organize, proselytize and educate.” The unity meeting was organized by Harlem People for a Better Government, a new group headed by Cenie Williams, Jr. a Harlem civic leader. The Rev. Herbert Daughtry, who was introduced as “Mayor Koch’s shadow,” got a standing ovation when he opened his speech by asking: “How am I doin’?” Daughtry said the mayoralty and the 14th Congressional District in Brooklyn are two seats whose current holders must be deposed. “Fred Richmond has admitted molesting a black youth,” Daughtry said. “You don’t have to be a genius to understand you don’t start when you get caught.”

Daily News, Sunday, June 17, 1979

Basil was special to me, very very sensitive, and empathetic. I can recall several clashes that I had with high-powered elected officials. Basil always came to my side before, during, and after the controversies. In fact, I would tell him, “Basil, man you’re getting too close to me. You might want to keep our political relationship furtive. I don’t want to damage your reputation or diminish your effectiveness.” But he would never adhere to my admonition. As you can see from the photo wherever we met it was so obvious that we had a profound admiration for each other as a person and as a leader.

During the time to which I’m referring, I headed the Black United Front. We were the outsiders, the militants, the troublemakers. But we had “clout”, “juice”, “influence”, and “power.” We had the masses; also, equally important, we had some friends on the “inside”. I’ve always believed in a two-tactic attack. I learned how to deal with the greedy and the needy; the sweet and the street.

Therefore I thought we could be more effective in keeping our friendship secret or at least keeping some distance in public.

David, his son and former governor of the state of New York reminds me of whenever Basil and I had a conversation on his way to the hospital for the last time. We prayed for the last time — very similar to Percy Sutton’s demise.

Basil was labeled a member of the gang of four which was City Clerk David Dinkins, Congressman Charlie Rangel, Assemblyman Herman “Denny” Farrell, and Basil Paterson. The name was sometimes uttered with awe and respect. At other times, it was uttered with resentment and fear.

The name started as a result of a meeting we had at the headquarters of District Council 37. There was a gathering of all the top Black leaders in New York. The reason for the meeting was an election year and we assembled to decide our candidate— but that’s not quite accurate. Some of our leaders had already picked their candidates. As the meeting progressed it became obvious to some of us for the first time that our leaders had made a decision and wanted us undecided to endorse their candidates. Things went smoothly with some of the candidates until they got to the mayoral seat. When the person who had been chosen by our leaders came up for a vote, up stepped Denny Farrell and declared his candidacy for Mayor. There was a disruption of the meeting. Things had not gone the way they were supposed to.

Let me say at this point the candidate elected by our leaders was Herman Badillo, for Mayor. So when Farrell stepped forward and said he was a candidate. Now we had to debate the issue and the undecided raised questions relative to how the decisions could be made without the undecided. In the shortened story, Denny Farrell won the vote of the leaders who were present. Thus completely destroying the well-laid plan of our leaders. The wounds were deep and I’m not sure if they are healed even today for those who are alive in spite of the fact that we all agreed that whoever won the election that night, we would all support. But it didn’t happen that way. People carried grudges for years.

Hence, the name the ‘Gang of Four’ because it was thought that the named four persons had engineered this sudden interjection of Denny Farrell in the campaign to keep Herman Badillo from winning. Herman Badillo had not supported Percy Sutton in the mayoral race and it wasn’t forgotten.

I supported Herman Farrell to the end. We remained great friends until his death. I was true to my word. I voted yes for whoever won the election that night. So then we all, Farrell won and I stayed with him also receiving criticism.

Well, there are only three members of the Gang of Four. Charlie Rangel is left. I said to him at the funeral of Basil Paterson. I would be honored if you included me in the Gang of Four, he smiled and said as far as I’m concerned you're in.

To be continued…

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